Good news for people trying to lose weight: just thinking of a having eaten a large meal can curb your appetite.

A new study published Dec. 5 in the open access journal PLOS ONE found that the memory of having eaten a big meal makes people feel less hungry hours after the actual meal.

Researcher Jeffrey Brunstorm and his team from the University of Bristol showed 100 men and women either a large or small bowl of soup just before lunch.

Researchers then removed soup or added more soup to the bowl as volunteers were eating. They had manipulated the amount of soup in the bowl with a convert pump that could refill or empty contents in a bowl without the eater noticing.

Immediately afterwards, participants who had been given a smaller portion felt hungrier. However, two or three hours later, the amount eaten had little or no effect on participants' hunger.

Researchers found that 2 to 3 hours after lunch, participants who believed they had eaten the big bowl of soup felt significantly more satisfied than those who had believed that they had the smaller portion.

Furthermore, a day after the experiment, participants who believed that they consumed the larger portion of soup believed that the portion of soup they had consumed would satisfy their hunger.

Researchers say that the latest findings demonstrate the independent contribution of memory processes to feelings of fullness after a meal.

"Obesity remains a major public health concern," researchers wrote in the study. "Therefore understanding controls of energy intake should be high priority."

"This is showing that the amount of hunger we experience between meals isn't a simple product of the amount or type of food that we actually consumed - there is some sort of psychology involved."

Researchers from the latest research also found in a previous study that people who were distracted while eating felt hungrier after their meal compared to those who were not distracted.